Saturday, January 2, 2010

Reading Resolutions

There was an article I read yesterday about the writer of the article's New Year's "Reading Resolutions." As I said before, I don't tend to go for New Year's resolutions because I think if there's something you see that you can do, you should do it without waiting for an arbitrary date. But I thought it might be fun to take a moment here at the beginning of the year and gaze at my reading navel.

One thing I do have is a list of books I would like to tackle some day but, for one reason or another, I haven't. Books on the list tend to be ones that intimidate me or simply ones I've been meaning to get to and haven't yet. Last year I think I tackled most of my list and found several that I loved (House of Leaves, Nightwood, The Bell Jar, Breakfast at Tiffany's) and some I learned conclusively that I either really don't ever need to read them or at the very least this is not the time in my life where I need to read them (Ulysses, Dune and Gravity's Rainbow.)
Right now I have a few in mind for the coming year. This year I think I'd finally like to delve into Nabokov. I think I'd like to try to get through Plato's Republic. The guy with the article mentioned his desire to read more contemporary works. I don't feel I'm contemporarily anemic. In fact, very often I find myself, in reading contemporary works, slapping my forehead and thinking I could have had a V-8. Still, there was another article I read yesterday of people in the literary community picked there "book of the past decade." I'd only read two of the books picked by any of them and I only enjoyed one of the two. Not that I care, but the list did remind me of four I could probably put into my list for this year: White Teeth, The Road, The Thin Place and Cloud Atlas.
Oh, and maybe Persepolis. Whoops. I guess I'm capable of that thing I hate when others do: when people put graphic novels in a different category from literature. I should know better than that.

Of course, I have my Reading the Classics groups which will take me through eight more of the Western Canon. When I'm done, at this point I'm pretty sure I'm going to continue with classics I would have chosen for that list of essential classics. More on that later. Much much later at this rate.

Also, Laurie and I have started a "read the Bible in a year" schedule.

I am of mixed feelings over the advice that life's too short to read books you're not enjoying. I think "enjoying" is a relative term and sometimes we can profit from material we don't like or agree with. I'm not really "enjoying" Thoreau like I enjoy Poppy Z. Brite's Liquor series, but I strongly feel it will profit me to have gone through it. Much like when a student says "I don't want to take my Final." Well, really they do want to because they want the result of a grade and a diploma. They just don't want the immediate stress. If they really didn't want to, they just wouldn't show up on Finals day. So, I find I kind of have to play it by ear.

One thing I wish I could do is what Laurie does. I've read Mortimer Adler's argument and agree that a book should be ravaged, lived in, worn, truly enjoyed. Laurie does that. She writes in the margins and pours over pages. She underlines and dog ears. I envy her that ability. I am entirely incapable of doing that. All of the books in my office have been read and they all pretty much look as new as they would in a bookstore. The few times I've tried to read a book interactively, the underlining and margin notes stop about 1/4th of the way in and I go back to reading with a gingerly placed bookmark. It's funny because Laurie and I are totally reversed otherwise. But she's the Oscar reader and I'm the Felix.

Other than that, I'm pretty happy with my reading habits and plan to continue much as I have.

1 comment:

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